“The truth? You can’t handle the truth!”-Jack Nicholson, from A Few Good Men
I have a lot of conversations with clients that start out like this:
- “I really want to do something different than what I am doing now, but I just don’t know what it is”
- “I have two job opportunities, and am totally unsure which one to take!”
- “I know that there are a lot of things wrong about working with this client, but I really don’t know what I will do if I stop working with him.”
- “I don’t feel really happy in this relationship, but I feel confused about what to do.”
- “I really want to start a business, but I don’t know if I have what it takes to be successful.”
Inevitably, after spending ten minutes talking with them, I ask an obvious question.
“Are you really confused, or do you actually know what you want to do?”
Most, after pausing or taking a gulp of air, say that they do know what they want, they are just scared to admit it.
Let’s face it, being “confused” is a lot less committed of an emotion than being scared. When you admit your fears, you are faced with deep truths such as:
- My marriage may end if I tell the truth about how I feel
- I spent 3 years and $100,000 pursuing a law degree that I care nothing about and have no desire to use
- If I drop this abusive client, I will have to actually move forward with my own business plans and I don’t know if I am ready for that yet
- If I leave this relationship, I will be alone and may never get the chance to have kids
- If I quit this job, I will have to admit that I made a bad decision and that is deeply embarrassing
- If I start a business and it doesn’t work out, I may put my family at risk
This month’s ezine article attacks this topic and gives some recommendations for distinguishing between genuine confusion and fear of the truth. Read the full scoop here.
One of my favorite quotes about facing truth comes from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
“No one that Phaedrus talked to seemed really concerned about the phenomenon that so baffled him. They seemed to say, ‘We know scientific method is valid, so why ask about it?’Phaedrus didn’t understand this attitude, didn’t know what to do about it, and since he wasn’t a student of science for personal or utilitarian reasons, it just stopped him completely. It was as if he were contemplating that serene mountain landscape Einstein had described, and suddenly between the mountains had appeared a fissure, a gap of pure nothing. And slowly, and agonizingly to explain this gap, he had to admit that the mountains, which had seemed built for eternity, might possibly be something else … perhaps just figments of his own imagination. It stopped him.”
The truth will scare the crap out of you. But it will also set you free.
While stewing in confusion and drama can be fun every once in awhile, don’t let it drag on too long. Trust yourself, and soon you will find that you really do know the right decision to make.
What if you really are confused?
A few years ago, I got laid off with approximately $120,000 in severance. It was exhilirating to think i could do anything. I spent the next 5 years trying to figure out what to do with myself. The money is gone. I still don’t know.
I know what I don’t want, but what I do want baffles me.
Please give some advice on that. This job I took for the money is crushing me. I don’t know how to find an alternative.
Fear vs Confusing from a runaway mind perspective
Over at Escape From Cubicle Nation, Pam tells us, I have a lot of conversations with clients that start out like this: I really want to do something different than what I am doing now, but I just don’t know
Great post! I just found your site via the participant list in the Life on Purpose Blog Book Tour, and it didn’t take me long to find some content worth making the trip over here for.
Fear of admitting what we know to be the truth is probably so prevalent in society that the numbers would be staggering if there were any way to actually track them.
Great stuff to inform people about, Pam, and I’ll be keeping on eye on your writing in order to share some of your wisdom with my own readers.
Right on the money. I did a post a while ago (and now forget where and when!) that talked about the same phenomenon. But my observation was that people say they are “confused” when they are actually “conflicted.”
I think that what we’re talking about here is one of those very powerful moments when identifying which one it is can make all the difference to a client.
Nice post, Pam.
Whoa, you caught me at it today, Pam! I’ve been following your stuff for a while and this really hit home. As a writer and coach, I’ve been building my business slowly and quietly, trying to ignore what I’ve know for some time. I also need to speak my program “live” and “in person.” I’ve resisted this obvious next step by naming it an “overly complicated addition.” In reality, it is the very thing I need to propel me forward. Thanks for the kick in the butt!
Thanks for this great article. Very clearly stated. I use this for my clients and myself, but there are often blockages – even in myself, who is ‘supposed’ to know all this. Thanks again for the reminder to tune in – and face truths, which do scare the crap out of us and set us free.
This is so true, Pam! And I’m right in the middle of one of those situations. I really do know what I have to do, but it is the fear that is blocking me. Thanks for the excellent reminder.
By the way, I’ve heard that line before about how the truth will scare the crap out of you. Where is it from?
I said this on Wendy Piersall’s blog the other day and I think it fits here too. I may be working it differently but the idea is still the same.
If there is a question you are afraid to ask then you need to ask it.
If you can’t then you need to figure out why you can’t. Sometimes I just say it. It may come out wrong but at least it is out. Now it can be dealt with.
Fear is an emotion that can seriously cloud our decision -making ability. We need to get that out of the way in order to make better decisions. This is why I feel I would rather break-open teh dam than stand by it waiting for it to burst.
Good stuff, Pam.